Let’s face it, kids are used to having worksheets and templates and preprinted note pages, but sometimes I don’t have time to gather those fancy materials. In my office, I always have plain copy paper and it is an integral part of my counseling program.
Here are 5 school counseling activities where I turn that plain sheet of paper into a counselor’s best friend.
1, 2, 3 Blast Away Anxiety
When I have students who come to my office feeling anxious, we do three things. We start by making 1 list of everything that is bothering them. After they made their list, I have them circle the top 2 things that are bothering them. We then break those two things down into 3 specific things.
It goes something like this:
- Want to spend more time with them.
- Need to lose those that aren’t really my friend.
- I need to be treated equally as well as I treat others.
- Tell my sister to stop wearing my clothes.
- Try talking to my mom about what is bothering me.
- Spend less time in my room.
Next, we talk about what we can control, what we can’t control, and how to let stress go. When we are done, we make our papers into airplanes and send them soaring across the room. 1, 2, 3, blast the anxiety right into the trash.
Let’s Talk About Courage
Grab a book too!
To talk to students about courage, I show them a sheet of paper and a book. I ask them if there is any way that the paper can hold up the book if they use only one hand to hold the paper.
The students will try different ways, but many times, will miss the very simple solution—simply roll the paper into a tube, hold it in your hand and place the book on top.
We then talk about how the paper is flimsy and weak if we keep it in its original state, but if we make it into a tube it becomes stronger and can hold up under pressure.
We then talk about how in times of pressure we have choices to make, and use the paper as an analogy of a person under pressure.
Seeing the Big Picture
I ask students to draw timelines a lot. A sheet of paper is the perfect way for students to reconstruct their past few hours, days, years, or even predict future events.
When counseling individuals, I may ask them to draw me a timeline of how their day started looking like a scene from Alexander’s Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It’s helpful to see the progression of when feelings dropped or lifted and to use this as a guide of how can we cope when things get bad. We process the events and think of coping strategies for the next time.
I also use timelines in an 8th grade lesson called How Long is a Lifetime? Students draw a representation of a timeline of their life and I ask them t0 think about how they can live the life they want with a career they choose. We look at retirement age, travel, family, schooling, and our values.
Lastly, I use timelines to help to understand family dynamics when talking to students about divorce, separation or family issues. It can really help as a visual to understand when different family events took place.
Art Therapy on the Fly
A sheet of paper is beautiful blank canvas. With a few simple instructions, students can turn it into a work of art. From talking about seeing the hidden beauty in ourselves, to how we are so special, to drawing our families, or how we are feeling, a sheet of paper has magical powers. Students are always proud of their work and can’t wait to show others what they have created.
In one activity, students pick one marker, hold it in the air above their paper and close their eyes. Once their eyes are closed, I will tell them to start to scribble. After about 10 seconds I will ask them to stop. I then ask them to open their eyes, and there is typically a lot of giggling when they see their creations. I’ll then ask them to turn their scribble into a picture. After they are done, we’ll talk about our inner beauty and the talents we have inside of us.
Did Someone Say Snowball Fight?
This is a great get-to-know-you activity. Simply give every student a sheet of paper and ask them to write 3 things about themselves on it without writing their name. When they are done, ask them to crumple up the paper into a ball.
When all the students are done, ask them to have snowball fight by picking up a snowball and throwing it at someone around the room. After the snowballs have been thoroughly mixed, ask the students to all pick one, open it up and read out loud the 3 things written inside. Then have the students try to guess who wrote it.
You can modify this game for small groups. Students share two coping skills they would use the next time they felt angry, three things they are looking for in college, or a way they will study for their next test. The possibilities for this simple game are endless.
I hope that you can use these ideas in your counseling program, and if you have any ideas for how to use a sheet of paper, I’d love to hear them!
Check out our other counseling activities using common materials.